Today's lectionary reading: Psalm 22:23-31; Genesis 16:1-6; Romans 4:1-12
Passage selected for reflection: Genesis 16:1-6 (NIV)
1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.” 6 “Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.
Sarai, or Sarah, is tired of waiting. It has been ten years since God first promised her husband Abram that he would have many children which would become a great nation. Since then, they have moved to a new land and Sarah has been unable to conceive a child. Now God has just repeated his promise to make Abram a great nation a second time. Sarah has had enough of waiting and decides to take matters into her own hands. She tells Abram her plan and he does what she suggests.
Now, what Sarah proposes may sound outlandish or shocking to us but in Sarah’s world it was not an uncommon way to continue a family line. Sarah offers a legitimate solution to her bareness. After all, how long can a person live on promises alone?
Sarah makes a plan and it works, but the reality of the situation is harder than she expected. Sarah turns on Abram accusing him for her suffering and then mistreats Hagar, a slave with no say in Sarah’s plan.
It is easy to be critical of Sarah, but then I think of how hard waiting can be. Waiting with unanswered prayers. Prayers for good things. Waiting on an answer to something that was promised so long ago that it feels like a broken promise. In those times it makes perfect sense to take action, to make something happen. To run ahead of God. In doing this not only do we risk missing what God has promised but also hurting others in the process.
Perhaps Sarah (and Abram) offers us a mirror to see ourselves, to see our own tendencies to take action. To trust in our own ability to make something happen or fix a problem rather than seeking what God would have us do. Where might God be calling us to wait, wait on what has been promised to us?
Is there a situation or circumstance in your life you are struggling with? Perhaps an unanswered prayer or place of pain?
Place your hands, palms up, in your lap and imagine this situation or circumstance resting in your open hands. Offer an honest prayer to God regarding your feelings and desires regarding what your hands are holding.
Picture God with you, with hands outstretched and open.
When you feel ready, lift your hands up and place what your hands are holding into God’s hands and return your hands to your lap.
How are God’s hands holding what you have placed in them?
Spend a moment in silence. What do you sense God saying to you?
God, you invite me to come to you as child and so I come. I come to you trusting in your goodness as a loving parent who wants only for my good. I come and I rest in your care. Waiting for what you have promised to provide. Amen
About the Author
Eileen Lundy is an oncology nurse, a pastor, and a spiritual director. She is a wife to Steve and a mother to 3 adult children. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska. Eileen has a Masters in Spiritual Formation form Spring Arbor University and a certificate in Spiritual Direction from North Park Seminary. Eileen loves to read and is addicted to buying books.